Both Pascal Siakam and Dalano Banton are beloved fan-favourites that represent the best of Raptors basketball, from two different sides of the spectrum. Siakam, the power forward turned makeshift point guard, has come into his own as one of the team’s much-needed veteran leaders since winning Most Improved Player in 2019, and is currently playing some of the best basketball of his life. Meanwhile, Dalano Banton — the rookie from Rexdale — has been living up to the hype of being the first-ever Canadian to be drafted by a Canadian basketball team. Together with their top-tier teammates Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and fourth draft pick Scottie Barnes, they’ve helped return the Raptors to some of their former Championship glory, putting them in a great position to make the playoffs at the end of this season.
Lately, Siakam and Banton have been equally busy off the court. They’re working with The Bay to present The Capsule for Change, an exclusive street style collaboration that brings together the iconic aesthetics of both The Bay and the Raptors. This limited-edition capsule collection makes for some ideal courtside fits, but it’s also about more than looking good: 100 per cent of net proceeds will support the Hudson’s Bay Foundation Charter for Change, an initiative created to accelerate racial equality across Canada.
To talk about the collection, the initiative, and their outstanding season, we caught up with Siakam and Banton in North Carolina before their Friday-night game against Charlotte.
How was All Star Break?
Siakam: It was awesome. Got some rest. Relaxed. Now it’s back to work.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this a lot, but Pascal, how did you feel about not being selected as an All Star this year?
Siakam: I think for me it is what it is. I’ve kind of moved on from it. I’m focused on continuing to get better as a player. There’s so many more levels that I can get to. Also, it’s over with now — I wish I was an All Star, but All Star is done now, so there’s no more reason to worry about it. What’s far more important is focusing on continuing to win.
Dalano, this is your first year. Is this your first major campaign?
Banton: It’s not the first one I’ve done, but it’s the biggest. It’s coming along great, to get to show off my face and have these kinds of opportunities. It’s been good for me.
I saw your first game of the season, and when you came off the bench, you got a full standing ovation. That must have been wild for you.
Banton: Yeah, absolutely. It’s crazy to be able to play for your own city. It’s a blessing. Having that connection with the people, being able to relate in many different ways, the way I act and the way I am, people can relate in different ways. Growing up in Toronto, everybody watches the Raptors, everyone who plays basketball wants to be part of it. But that’s also why we need to have the fans back in the house.
You’ll have that on Tuesday against the Nets.
Banton: Is it going to be full capacity? Wow. Yeah, against Brooklyn, we need you guys out there, man!
Siakam: It’ll be good. That’ll be a really good game.
What does this capsule collection mean to you both?
Banton: The campaign means a lot. The collaboration is about more than just style, it’s about coming together as one team, one country, to advance the racial equity in Canada. We’re trying to build awareness and bring together different cultures, continue the conversation about change. I’m proud to work with The Bay. It’s an organization that’s dedicated to important work. And all the net proceeds will support the Hudson’s Bay Charter for Change, so show love for that.
Siakam: I think for me, when I talked about it with the Bay and my agent, being one of the premier athletes in Canada, it was something I wanted to get behind. Being from Africa, and being Black, it was just a no-brainer for me. I just wanted to get behind it because it’s something that will continue to be impactful. Basketball is one thing but if we have the opportunity to change people’s lives, that’s even more important than basketball. Having the Raptors behind it is amazing.
There have been a lot of conversations culturally about anti-Black racism and inequality in the United States. Do you feel like we need to talk about it more in Canada?
Siakam: Yeah, for sure. I think that’s why the Raptors have been at the forefront of taking that initiative. We made a lot of statements and [take] a lot of stands. We want to make sure that people know we support it, and we feel it, being Black. Being in the United States, wherever you live, racial inequality is everywhere. We’re not outside of this. We’re in this together. And that’s the only way we can create change — to work together toward a common goal.
Do you have a unique take on this being from Toronto?
Banton: It would be hard to say, because everybody has their own perspective on such a broad conversation. But just being from Toronto, growing up with every culture possible, you’re just used to being around different ethnicities. I can say this: Toronto and Canada [as a whole] have a lot more culture than other places.
How are you feeling going into the back half of the season?
Banton: We want to make a run on these last games, build on what we’ve built, perfect what we can going into playoffs. It’s my first year so I definitely want to play in the playoffs to get the experience early. And just continue to take steps forward as we head to the playoffs.
Is there a lot of urgency to get into the playoffs? Right now you’re on track to make the play-in tournament.
Siakam: For sure. The Toronto Raptors have a winning program. That’s all I know, and it’s preached every single day. We expect to win. That’s something that we want to get back to. It’s going to be tough, because the East has a lot of great teams, and it’s a tight race. But we’re continuing to climb the ladder.
The dynamic seems good right now. Where does that rapport come from?
Banton: I feel like it just comes over time, playing together a lot over a lot of games. Early in the season we didn’t have lot of movement, guys not knowing where guys are with the ball. But getting used to everyone’s play style has been good.
Siakam: With the season prior there were a lot of factors outside of my control. This year there’s less crazy things happening. I’m going out there, playing the game that I love, and having fun. Plus obviously having a little bit of success helps. It brings a different type of joy and energy to the team.
It does sort of seem like you’re having more fun. Even without the crowd, like there was that moment with Phoenix and the Raptor mascot…
Siakam: That was great. Yeah, no, for sure. Losing’s not fun for anybody. So when you’re winning everyone is happy. I try to be even-keeled, and understand there’s going to be highs and lows. I want to be consistent, bring the same energy each day, and that translates to winning.
You really bounced back from your surgery earlier this season. How was that experience, coming back from that?
Siakam: It was the first time for me. I’d never had surgery before. So it was scary at the beginning. Just trying to understand the whole process. Mentally, I had a great team around me, and for me, having that support made everything easier. I always knew I would come back and be who I was. I’m playing at my level, and I know I can play at an even higher level beyond that.
This is a very star-driven league, and teams are always acquiring stars — obviously James Harden just went to Philly. But with the Raptors, it feels like right now, we’re growing our own stars. You and Freddy are the stars.
Siakam: Yeah, I think the Raptors have a great development program, and it’s something the team takes pride in. We continue to develop players through the G League and use all the resources that we have. It feels good to have that kind of support behind us, and like I said, I really think the sky is the limit for us.
How would you describe your personal style?
Banton: How you dress is who you are. I’m a simple guy so I like to keep it simple. Simple but nice.
Siakam: For me the most important thing is being comfortable. At the same time, you have to know that people are watching you, and you can have an impact. I try to support Canadian brands and Black-owned brands. You have to sometimes try to make an impact. Being embraced by the community, being from Cameroon, being drafted by the Raptors, that’s my way of showing my love, supporting Canadian-owned brands, and trying to push Canada and Toronto, not just on the court, but off the court too.